After their intra-squad scrimmage on Thursday night, something unusual happened on the field at NRG Stadium. Players listened intently as veteran leaders like Kenny Stills, Michael Thomas, J.J. Watt and Deshaun Watson spoke to the semi-circle huddled around them. Outside of the team, no one watching practice was privy to the nature of the conversation, but it was clear that players had more than just football on their minds.
"When we met after the scrimmage, it was a raw conversation, it was passionate and it was real," Thomas said. "Guys just wanted to make sure, like, 'hey, is there something we can do as a team? Is there a way that can we use our voice and our platform to try to create real change here in Houston? Is there a way we can lend our platform and our voices to try to help some grassroots organizations either in Houston or nationally? Is there something that's attainable? Is there a law that we can try to change that's attainable?' That's kind of where it was at and I think we got everybody on the same page and everybody's supporting one another."
Stills and Thomas, in particular, have been always been active in social justice causes and advocating for victims of racial violence and police brutality. In light of the recent police shooting of Jacob Blake in Kenosha, Wisconsin, professional athletes have cancelled games, practices and spoken out against systemic racism. The Texans also considered cancelling their scrimmage, but ultimately decided not to and instead, discussed how to best use their platform for change.
"I think that, just speaking for the Houston Texans, I'm really proud of these guys that are on our team," head coach and general manager Bill O'Brien said Saturday. "We have a lot of really good veteran guys that are really passionate about football, really passionate about what's going on in the world."
Players have been watching the NBA and the WNBA, where female athletes have been active in social initiatives and done "an amazing job," according to Thomas. Texans players want to build on what the NBA and the Milwaukee Bucks started, whether that's through approaching NFL team owners and management or discussions with political leaders to create meaningful legislative change.
"Those who have the power and ability to change these laws that need to be changed in order for us to have real change when it comes to not police reform, but trying to make sure that we don't have instances where Jacob Blake is getting shot seven times in the back and there's no type of justice for it," Thomas said. "Where there's George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery. These are the people that have the ability to affect change, so if there's a way that we can use our platform that first Thursday night game, it's going to be huge."
The Texans kick off their 2020 regular season on Thursday, September 10 against the Chiefs at Arrowhead Stadium. Kickoff is set for 7:20 p.m. CT on NBC and SportsRadio 610.